Crown Volume 1 by Shinji Wada and You Higuri (amazon)
Crown is a delightfully frothy confection comprised of a lost princess, magic necklace, an evil usurping queen, and super-hot ex-members of the French Foreign Legion. As the story begins Ren and his friend Jake abruptly resign their job as elite mercenaries. Ren blackmails Jake to come with him to Japan because Jake lost $20,000 to him at poker. Jake asks “What’s in this tiny oriental country that interests you so much?” Ren reveals that that they’ve come to protect his little sister.
Although Mahiro is a young girl, she’s constantly working. She’s a take-out delivery girl at a restaurant and when she leaves that job she goes to work directing traffic. When her parents died the unscrupulous Iizaka family moved into her house, claiming to be her new guardians. Mahiro ran away leaving all her possessions behind and has been working on her own ever since. Ren and Jake show up at her part time job, identify her by her name tag, and throw her in the back of a car. They kick the Iizakas out of Mahiro’s house. Mahiro assumes that the two attractive men who kidnapped her are members of the mafia and wonders when she’s going to be sold into slavery. Ren makes a detour to a fruit stand and buys her favorite oranges before taking her back to a condo and telling her to rest.
When Mahiro wakes up Ren gives her a hug and she realizes that he is her long-lost brother. They are the prince and princess of a small Asian country named Regalia where an evil queen has assumed the throne after their parents’ death. Lady Phoebula doesn’t have the proof of royalty, a pendant called the Crown due to the way it refracts light around the head of the person who wears it. Mahiro has the Crown, and she uses it as a dowsing tool. She settles in to her new life with Jake and Ren, but trouble looms! Lady Phoebula has hired mercenaries to kill Mahiro.
Ren and Jake then proceed to put their awesome French Foreign Legion skills to work. They must have an excellent tailor, because they are constantly ripping off their suits and tuxedos to reveal camouflage gear and bullet proof vests beneath. They set up elaborate traps for the would-be assassins, managing to protect Mahiro from a horde of mercenaries. There’s a particularly persistent assassin who is known only by the name “The Condor”, a man with dark hair, a scar, and a billowing scarf that constantly obscures his face.
The relationship between the trio is cute. Ren has a habit of gazing soulfully into Jake’s eyes and saying “I need you!” whenever Jake is reluctant to go along with the assignment of protecting Mahiro. Mahiro tends to act a little too much like a cute little puppy around her new guardians, and it is a little unclear if Ren is her actual or adopted brother. Jake helps Mahiro with her math homework and she comments on his ceaseless beer consumption. In any case the combination of the excellent art of You Higuri, royal plotting, and cute guys blowing things up creates a manga that I’ll be eagerly reading. I hope Mahiro’s personality gets a little more interesting as the series progresses, but as long as Jake and Ren are around to dramatically disrobe and throw grenades around I am sure I will be entertained.